As the fight surrounding the controversial Measure K intensifies, opposition group Preserve Our Rural Communities (PORC) took it a step further on Feb. 5 by submitting an initiative for the general election in November that could change how future zoning decisions are made.
PORC, the group of residents opposed to the rezoning of four sites along Highway 101, announced the initiative at a No on K campaign event in San Juan Bautista.
The initiative—Preserve Our Agricultural and Rural Lands Initiative—would amend the 2035 San Benito County General Plan adopted in 2015 to remove all 16 designated commercial nodes including commercial neighborhood, commercial thoroughfare and commercial regional. It also requires that any zone change from agriculture, rural and rangeland properties be decided by a vote of the people in a special or general election.
According to the initiative, the San Benito County Board of Supervisors can make changes to these land designations for state-required low- and very low-income housing, but the properties must be within other developed lands.
“If you want to think of Measure K as an emergency medicine, we have a chronic condition in this county,” PORC President Andy Hsia-Coron said at the Feb. 5 event. “This growth of all these developers. And everybody sees it when they drive around and see the signs of all these developers.”
Hsia-Coron said the changes to the county general plan, proposed to last through 2049, would slow down the pace of agricultural, rural lands being used for residential and commercial development.
“It’s been done successfully in Sonoma, Napa and Ventura counties,” Hsia-Coron said.
Former Congressman Sam Farr attended the event to support PORC in its efforts to stop the rezoning of the four commercial nodes along Highway 101 and its new initiative.
“I’m not a resident of this county, but I love this county and I represented it in elected office for over 25 years,” Farr said. “I’ve always felt that San Benito County is one of the most historical counties in California. And the future of California is going to be reaching out to those historical areas to still look where California began.”
Farr said tax-generating businesses should be in cities, and that the future of the county is in rural and agricultural tourism. He also said commercial areas along the highway would not generate interest in San Benito County from commuters, who would only stop for gas and food.
“I think the Board of Supervisors thought they were trying to do a good idea, but I think they missed the mark and really creating nodes of urban acne along Highway 101,” Farr said.
A day after PORC announced the initiative, Supervisor Anthony Botelho said the group was trying to “hijack” the general plan.
“They want to enable themselves to stop all commercial economic development in San Benito County,” Botelho said at a Feb. 6 San Benito County Business Council meeting.
He said one of the most important responsibilities for supervisors is responsible land use planning.
“It will damage people’s property rights, business opportunities as well as government to convey services,” Botelho said. “It’s a real dangerous situation.”